These Famous Child Actors Have Changed the Most Over Time
It is one thing to be an actor, but it is another to be a child actor. These kids, who enter the show business at a young age, realize early that it's not always easy being in the spotlight and many unusual things happen behind the scenes.
Throughout the years, these child actors have grown up from the roles that put them on the map. Some managed to stay in the game, while some chose to walk away. Regardless, the big names on this list have changed the most.
Taliesin Jaffe launched his career in the 1980s by playing Kenny Butler on the hit comedy Mr. Mom. He then moved to the small screen and joined the cast of TV sitcom She's the Sheriff. Sadly, the show was axed after just one season so Jaffe decided to go back to school.
The 80s decade was not the last time Jaffe would work in the entertainment business. He has come back and he is now a well-known voice actor. You might recognize his voice as Blanka in the Street Fighter series and The Flash in Injustice 2.
Soleil Moon Frye
Thousands of young girls vied for the titular role of Punky Brewster, but it was Soleil Moon Frye who got the part. From there, she was able to land more roles in films like You Ruined My Life and The St. Tammany Miracle. She was even recognized with the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series.
Good news for fans who grew up watching Frye, she will be reprising her most popular role for a reboot series of Punky Brewster on NBC's Peacock streaming service.
Abigail Breslin was only five years old when she entered the show business through Signs. Just half a decade into her career, she was already nominated for an Academy Award. For her work in Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin made history as the fourth-youngest actress to be in running for that category.
In 2015, Breslin stepped back onto the small screen through the Fox comedy Scream Queens. She also launched her debut album The World Now earlier that year.
Raven-Symoné has been on a roll since the 80s. She started out in the hit sitcom The Cosby Show then moved on to Hangin' With Mr. Cooper. At the time, she was actually just getting warmed up with those two big projects. She would eventually star in her own sitcom, which is That's So Raven.
The former child actor grew up and became a TV host on The View. Due to popular demand, Raven-Symoné once again dressed the part of Raven Baxter for Raven's Home.
Even before Twilight, Kristen Stewart had already made waves as a child actor. For her work in 2002's Panic room, she was nominated for a Young Artist award. She also took on roles in other noughties films like Zathura: A Space Adventure.
The success of the Twilight saga just opened more doors for the maturing actress. Stewart starred in Personal Shopper, and more recently, in the 2019 reboot of Charlie's Angel. She is currently busy directing music videos and filming romantic comedy Happiest Season.
Contrary to popular belief, Daniel Radcliffe's first ever film was actually BBC One's David Copperfield in 1999. It was only a year after that when he nabbed the role of Harry Potter in the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's novel series. Starring in those eight movies over the years cemented his status as a star.
Needless to say, Radcliffe grew up right in front of the silver screen. And lately, he's been portraying mature roles in movies such as Kill Your Darlings, Now You See Me 2 and Imperium.
Haley Joel Osment
Tom Hanks was the star of Forrest Gump but his movie son, Haley Joel Osment, also captured the audience's attention. That was only the beginning for Osment, who would earn Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his magnificent performance in The Sixth Sense.
Osment stepped back from the spotlight to study at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He came back with recurring roles on Silicon Valley and The Boy. He also plays Sora in several Kingdom Hearts video games.
Jonathan Lipnicki dominated the big screen from the late 90s until the early 00s. His acting debut was in 1996's Jerry Maguire, followed by TV roles on The Jeff Foxworthy Show and Dawson's Creek. He also starred in 1999's Stuart Little and its 2002 sequel.
Surprisingly, Lipnicki has not appeared in a huge film since Stuart Little 2 because he chooses to work in independent films. Although on television, he has been in reality shows. He also became an MMA fighter.
Arguably the most unforgettable child actor of the 90s, Macaulay Culkin started appearing in commercials and films at the tender age of four. From his role in 1989's Uncle Buck, Culkin landed his most famous role as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone. He also starred in The Pagemaster and Richie Rich.
Lately, Culkin works as the CEO of satirical website Bunny Ears. He is also behind the mic for his podcast called Bunny Ears. Fans were over the moon when he reprised his role as Kevin McCallister for a Google Assistant advertisement in 2018.
Ron Howard's acting career began in the 60s as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. Just a few years after his first project, he landed the lead role on the sitcom Happy Days. For this, he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy in 1978.
Lately, Howard is more recognized as a director than a child actor. He directed beloved films such as Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code.
Mayim Bialik emerged as a child actor in the 1980s. After taking on recurring roles on MacGyver and Webster, she finally got her big break as the titular character on the NBC sitcom Blossom. It helped her blooming career as well as the network's sitcom dominance.
Bialik once again made a mark on the television as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. Since her performance here earned her four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, fans can't wait to see what's in store for her upcoming sitcom Carla.
Malcom in the Middle star Frankie Muniz was Fox's apple of the eye in the early 2000s. His performance brought in huge ratings, as well as two Golden Globe nominations for his epic performance. In the big screen, Muniz also raked in dollars for Agent Cody Banks and its 2004 sequel.
After Malcolm in the Middle, Muniz set his sights on auto racing and music. He has not totally left the screen though, competing in the hit reality shows Dancing With the stars and working on films like Road to Capri.
For her performance in Purple People Eater, six-year-old Thora Birch won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Under Nine Years of Age. She then kept securing movie roles with projects like Hocus Pocus and Patriot Games. On the television, Birch was among the cast of Day by Day and Parenthood.
In recent years, she starred in Winter of Frozen Dreams, The Etruscan Smile and Affairs of State. In 2019, she joined AMC's hit show The Walking Dead as Whisperers member Gamma.
Jason Bateman grabbed everyone's attention as Derek Taylor in Silver Spoons. In no time at all, he landed his own sitcom called It's Your Move. By the end of the 80s, Bateman already cemented his teen idol status, appearing in The Hogan Family and Teen Wolf Too.
Bateman once again created buzz for his 00s show Arrested Development. The fact that he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy for it also helped. Recently, the actor is being recognized again for his work on Netflix's Ozark.
Eleven-year-old Anna Chlumsky starred opposite Macaulay Culkin in 1991's My Girl. The film's success led to the child actress starring in My Girl 2, Trading Mom, and Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain. Before the end of the decade though, she hit pause on her career to attend the University of Chicago.
In 2006, Chlumsky made her comeback with minor roles in 30 Rock and Law & Order. She then portrayed Amy Brookheimer on Veep, and that's where she earned her six Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
The Addams Family made Christina Ricci famous overnight. She reprised her popular role as Wednesday Addams in its 1993 sequel. She wasn't done spooking the audience in 1995's Casper. By the end of the decade, Ricci has graduated from her innocent characters and began playing adult roles.
Lately, Ricci finds herself on the small screen with The Lizzie Borden Chronicles and Z: The Beginning of Everything. She also worked a voice actor for Teen Titans: The Judas Contract in 2017.
Tiffani Thiessen started her career on the runway as a fashion model then transitioned to TV as Kelly Kapowski on teen comedy Saved by the Bell. During her later years on the show, she would juggle her time as Valerie Malone Beverly Hills, 90210. Her massive exposure made her a familiar face.
Today, Thiessen remains active in the show business. For six seasons, she played Elizabeth Burke on USA's White Collar. Since 2018, she's been part of Netflix's sitcom Alexa & Katie.
Anna Paquin was just warming up in the industry when she got the part for The Piano. Her marvelous performance as Flora McGrath earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Being the second-youngest Oscar winner ever paved the way for more projects.
Paquin dipped her toes on television with True Blood, which convinced her to fully commit. The award-winning actress took on roles in The Affair and Alias Grace. She recently appeared in Netflix's The Irishman, which was directed by Martin Scorsese.
As a member of the Barrymore family of actors, it's no surprise that Drew started young. The hard work paid off though, with 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial making her one of the highest-grossing child actors of all time.
With the long list of films Barrymore starred in for the past decades, she is now devoting most of her time as a producer. Although the younger generation recognizes her as Sheila Hammond in Netflix's horror-comedy Santa Clarita Diet and Lauren Reynolds in the romantic comedy Blended.
The Wonder Years saw Danica McKellar competing with her baby sister Crystal for the role of Winnie Cooper. The older McKellar got the part, and she followed it up with minor roles on Babylon 5 and Walker, Texas Ranger.
Though McKellar has not retired from acting, she has become more popular for being a mathematics wizard. She has even published numerous books about math like 2012's Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. You might recognize her voice as Judy Jetson and Miss Martian.
In the 1980s, every boy wanted to be Fred Savage while every girl had a crush on him. Whether it was on television or in films, the Chicago native was in demand during the decade. He's best known as Kevin Arnold on the hit TV show The Wonder Years, but he also became popular for The Princess Bride and The Wizard.
As of late, Savage continues to wow the audience. His role in Fox's The Grinder earned a him a Critics' Choice Award nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series.
Melissa Joan Hart
Melissa Joan Hart put her name on the map and introduced Nickelodeon at the same time. Her hit show Clarissa Explains It All broke grounds for other successful shows on the popular cable network.
As it turned out, Hart would remain on top with sitcoms Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Melissa & Joey. The New York native directed episodes of her two shows as well as The Goldbergs. She recently starred in the Netflix series No Good Nick.
A few years before giving life to Kimmy Gibbler on the hit sitcom Full House, Andrea Barber actually played Carrie Brady on the hit soap opera Days of Our Lives. For her portrayal, she won two Soap Opera Digest Awards for Outstanding Youth Actress in a Daytime Soap Opera.
After Full House went off the air, Barber temporarily bid goodbye to acting too. She just returned to the 'biz when Full House returned as Fuller House in Netflix. She was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Chemistry in 2016,
Jennette McCurdy is best remembered as Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon's iCarly, but she got her start with minor roles on Malcolm in the Middle and Judging Amy. As Sam, she won Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite TV Sidekick. She even got her own albeit short-lived show for the 2013 spinoff Sam & Cat.
In recent years, McCurdy is dividing her time between acting and directing. She took on the role of pregnant teenager Wiley Day in Netflix's Between while she directed short films such as Strong Independent Women and The Grave.
Mrs. Doubtfire introduced Mara Wilson as a talented child actor to keep an eye on. She subsequently starred in 1994's Miracle on 34th Street, then got her most popular role as the title character in 1996's Matilda. The film remains a cult classic today.
As an adult, Wilson spent her time publishing books. The most recent one she wrote was in 2016 called Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. In 2018, she lent her voice as Liv Amara in Big Hero 6: The Series.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt got his foot in the door through television series like The Powers That Be and Dark Shadows. It was through the popular NBC sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun that the young actor received his fourth Young Artist Awards nomination. Sadly, he appeared less during the final season to focus on college life.
Gordon-Levitt successfully got back on track in showbiz. Since 2004, he's been working with his collaborative media platform HitRecord. It earned an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media.
Alison Porter became a successful child actor as the title character of 1991's Curly Sue. She was deeply loved by the audience, and by the cast and crew as well. Porter actually starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Chicken Soup in 1989 before being in the comedy drama.
Porter's comeback was uniquely done compared to other child actors who stepped back into the spotlight. She literally turned heads as a contestant and winner on The Voice in 2016. In 2019, she produced her third studio album Pink Cloud.
For her role in I Am Sam, eight-year-old Dakota Fanning made history as the youngest SAG Award nominee ever. She kept the movie roles coming with Man on Fire and the Twilight series. She acted and studied at the same time, graduating from Campbell Hall School in 2011.
Her film career never stopped, but she only came back on television after 14 years, with 2018's The Alienist. She is still working on the The Angel of Darkness.
Hilary Duff reigned over Disney Channel in the early 2000s. She was the ultimate teen queen thanks to her titular role in the teen comedy Lizzie McGuire. She even jumped to the big screen for The Lizzie McGuire Movie in 2003.
Duff turned her sights to making albums and managing her fashion lines. After several guest appearances, she officially came back to television work in 2015 with TV Land's Younger. The actress is also reprising her teenager role for Disney+.
Many aspiring child actors auditioned for the role of Ofelia in 2006 Pan's Labyrinth, but it was Spanish actress Ivana Baquero who landed the role. The production was actually looking for an eight-year-old but she convinced them with her audition piece. For her role, Baquero won a Goya Award for Best New Actress.
Since 2019, Baquero stars in Netflix's High Seas. Before her lead role in the mystery series, she worked on the MTV sci-fi series The Shannara Chronicles in 2013 alongside Austin Butler.
Madeline Zima cut her teeth in the 90s through the role of Grace Sheffield on the TV sitcom The Nanny. This secured her next projects, Californication and Heroes. She also starred in a few films including Mr. Nanny and 'Til There Was You.
Before landing roles on The Vampire Diaries and Twin Peaks, Zima spent most of her career as a guest star on TV shows like Law & Order and Touched by an Angel. She is currently working on HBO's Perry Mason.
Cole Sprouse cemented his child star status in the Disney comedy The Suite Life of Zach and Cody alongside his twin brother Dylan. However, his career actually began in the 1994 hit sitcom Friends and in the 1999 film Big Daddy. He took a break from acting to get a college degree.
Upon graduation from the New York University, Sprouse made a comeback as an actor. He gained more following with his current role as Jughead Jones in the CW teen drama Riverdale. He also moonlights as a fashion photographer.
Hana Hatae gained an audience as a child for her adorable role as Molly O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Her career, however, did not take off. It just resulted with a few guest appearances on TV shows like Family Matters.
In recent years, Hatae focused her energies in managing their family restaurant. She returned to TV as a guest on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in 2010 to enlist his help. In 2018, Hatae was interviewed for the documentary What We Left Behind.
Michael Ray Bower
Michael Ray Bower became known for his role as Donkeylips on the Nickelodeon comedy Salute Your Shorts. His unstoppable portrayal earned him a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor in a Cable Series. He also starred in movies such as Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School and The Willies.
As of late, Bower continues acting through guest appearances on TV shows like California Dreams, Dark Angel, and Friends. He also works as a voice actor in video games.
In 2001, Tania Raymonde began turning heads for her portrayal of Cynthia Sanders on the hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. As she grew up as a teenager, she was recognized for her role as Alex Rousseau on the ABC drama Lost.
Raymonde kept her streak, landing the titular character in 2013's TV film Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret and starring in Texas Chainsaw 3D the same year. She is currently working in the Amazon Studios series Goliath.
After working on a Burger King commercial, David Lascher appeared on numerous shows as a child actor. He starred on the Nickelodeon show Hey Dude, but also portrayed roles in other television shows such as Blossom, Clueless, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Lascher stepped away from the limelight after his teenage roles. He then came back in the 2010s, playing Charlie on Melissa & Joey and Charles on The Boat Builder. In 2018, he guest-appeared on Hollywood Darlings.
Kel Mitchell showed signs of being a promising comedian at a young age. He kickstarted his career on the sitcom Kenan & Kel, starring alongside Kenan Thompson. It became easy for him to secure roles on other Nickelodeon shows.
Mitchell put his comedic skills on the side to give way to a music career as a rapper. He also participated in Kanye and Khalid's music videos. Mitchell has returned on the small screen as himself on Dancing with the Stars and The Substitute.
Lori Beth Denberg
Lori Beth Denberg caught the viewers' attention as one of the original cast members of the Nickelodeon show All That. She stood out for being the host of the "Vital Information" segment. The sketch comedy show helped her land a role on the sitcom The Steve Harvey Show.
Denberg left acting in the 00s to tend to her personal life. She only became visible again the next decade after joining a reunion with the other cast of All That. She also popped in on a few television shows as herself.
Thirteen-year-old Josh Peck made the right decision to move to Los Angeles upon landing the role of Josh Nicholls on the Nickelodeon sitcom Drake & Josh. His performance would secure him roles in movie like Drillbit Taylor and The Wackness.
After Drake & Josh, Peck divided his attention between acting on TV shows and films. He now works as a voice actor, too. Peck is currently preparing for the title role of U.S. Marshal Scott Turner for a Disney+ reboot series adaptation of Turner & Hooch.
The Nanny paved the way for Benjamin Salisbury to create a career as a child actor. His role as Bright Sheffield inspired special film roles in 1992's Captain Ron, and 1996's D3: The Mighty Ducks. He also lent his voice as Tin Boy on The Oz Kids.
Sheffield became busy with school, graduating from the American University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. As of 2017, he has been working as the Director of Operations at the Universal Studios Hollywood.
Thanks to his vibrant suspenders and funny personality, Jaleel White's role on the CBS sitcom Family Matters gained him a following. Before portraying Stevel Urkel though, he initially worked on The Jeffersons and Charlie & Co.
After White got his degree in film and television from UCLA, he came back with numerous guest appearances. He joined Dancing with the Stars as well as hosted the game show Total Blackout in 2012. White is currently working on Netflix's The Big Show Show.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Many people are aware that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen began as child actors on the hit sitcom Full House. This gig resulted to more roles on TV films such as To Grandmother's House We Go and Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.
Mary-Kate and Ashley's last acting project as a duo was in 2004's New York Minute. The famous twins ventured into business as fashion designers. They won the award for Accessories Designer of the Year in 2019's Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Josh Server found fame as a child by being part of the original cast of Nickelodeon show All That. He was the only one who stayed from the first season up to the very last. The young actor also made appearances on other series in the network like Alex Mack, Figure It Out, and Drake & Josh.
After All That, Server hosted the third season of Oh Yeah! Cartoons. He has also joined reunion-type appearances for All That such as 2015's New York Comic-Con and a 2018 episode of Wild 'n Out.
Portraying T.J. Henderson on the hit comedy Smart Guy made Tahj Mowry a child actor to look after. The role earned Mowry two Young Artist Award nominations. Years before that though, Mowry appeared on several episodes of Full House and Out All Night.
From 2012 to 2017, Mowry portrayed Tucker Dobbs in the ABC sitcom Baby Daddy. He also co-hosted the talk show The Real in 2015. That same year, he released a six-song EP entitled, Future Funk.
At two years old, Miko Hughes already jumpstarted his career with an acting gig on a public service announcement. He established himself a horror flick staples through Pet Sematary and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. He also had minor roles on Baywatch and Beverly Hills, 90210.
Hughes then built a music career as "DJ Cubed." He still acts though, with his most recent role being Jeremy in the 2019 indie film The Untold Story. He also directed a segment in the horror anthology film Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear.
Sean O'Neal's rose to fame for his role as Sam Anders on the Nickelodeon show Clarissa Explains It All in 1991. For his incredible performance, he was nominated twice for the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor Starring in a Cable Series.
The budding actor, however, turned down an offer to be a boyband member in order to take a break. O'Neal caught the acting bug again a decade after, accepting minor roles on the television show Development Hell and 2016 film Penumbra.
Three-year-old Scarlett Pomers got her start not on commercials, not on TV shows or films, but on Michael Jackson's music video, "Heal the World. She then nabbed the role of a young Naomi Wildman on Star Trek: Voyage and gained more prominence as Kyra Hart on Reba.
Pomers only worked as a child actress until the early 00s, with the TV film A Ring of Endless Light. She then became an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. Pomers is currently a member of the band SCARLETT. As a solo artist, she released her debut EP entitled Insane.
Several TV commercial experiences landed Jeremy Miller the role of Ben Seaver on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. Miller gained popularity from his character, snagging more projects like a role on the show Shalom Sesame and a McDonald's advertisement.
Miller maintained a low-key profile after an old male stalker kept bothering him. He also tried to preserve his career from being involved with controversial friends. He returned to making movies in the late 2000s through films like Milk and Fashion and Never Have I Ever.
Josh Saviano got his big break playing Paul Pfeiffer on the ABC comedy drama The Wonder Years. Before landing this main gig though, he had minor roles on The Ray Bradbury Theater and The All-New Mickey Mouse Club.
Just like his character on The Wonder Years, Saviano ended up attending an Ivy League school. He attained his bachelor's degree at Yale University. Saviano now works as a partner for law firm Morrison Cohen, but he appeared on three episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2016.